The Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago is reporting a disturbing number of child abuse reports between May 2015 and September 2023. For that eight-year period, a total of 10,811 reports of child sexual abuse were made to the authority. Broken down it amounts to an average of 1,395 reports of child sexual abuse are made to the Children’s Authority each year, which is an average of 3.8 or almost four reports on average daily. Almost all of the perpetrators are known to the victims.
Rhonda Gregoire-Roopchan, general manager of the Child Welfare Services division of the Children’s Authority said in over 80 percent of sexual abuse cases, the victims were female. The authority had received reports about children less than one-year-old being abused, but the most frequent age group was ten to thirteen.
The reports were received from all over the country, but the authority received the most from the San Juan/Laventille areas (12.7 percent), and Tunapuna/Piarco (10.9 percent). “The fewest reports came to us from rural areas, including Mayaro/Rio Claro at 2.4 percent and Point Fortin at 3.3 percent. She added that the greatest number of reports were made in 2020 – 1,452, and the lowest in 2018 – 1,180. And 45 percent of the perpetrators were the children’s primary caregivers.
Gregoire-Roopchan said the first step of the authority’s investigative process was to assess the level of risk on the basis of the report and determine whether the child was in imminent danger as defined by the law. If that was the case, its Emergency Response Team would act within 24 hours. If not, the case was sent to the Investigation and Intervention Team, which would do a series of interviews
She also stressed that the authority did not deal with the criminal aspects of the case but worked closely with the Child Protection Unit of the TTPS, which laid charges and dealt with any further legal issues. Instead, the authority focused on the child’s experiences, needs, and how to help the child return to functioning optimally. With the help of several stakeholders, the authority sees the child’s medical, mental, and emotional needs, and works with the whole family to recover. Stakeholders include the Ministry of Education’s Student Support Services, National Family Services and the Ministry of Social Development, the police, and others.
Gregoire-Roopchan said the priority was the well-being and safety of the child and to initiate the authority’s investigative process was to assess the level of risk on the basis of the report and determine whether the child was in imminent danger as defined by the law. If that was the case, its Emergency Response Team would act within 24 hours. If not, the case was sent to the Investigation and Intervention Team, which would do a series of interviews
If the allegation proves to be true, the team would then find a space for the child within their immediate or extended family, foster care, a community residence or list them for adoption if they meet the criteria, and deal with the child’s basic needs.